Is an influencer right for this campaign? How do I find and choose an influencer to work with? How much value would an influencer really add to this project? Justyna Torres, senior manager of influencer marketing at 360i, asks these questions every day when working with fashion and beauty brands.
We sat down with her to hear about the strategies she uses to lead successful campaigns at a viral scale while leveraging real, authentic influencer relationships such as the #DSWStyleSquad.
- A successful influencer campaign is one that can be blown up to other categories, including paid media, PR and social media.
- You need to understand what your goal is and what you’re working towards to get a better sense of what kind of influencers you need to work with.
- When trying to tap into a new audience segment, first research the audience and make sure you have credibility in the space.
- It’s easy for influencer marketing partnerships to become transactional. The best partners are those that genuinely want to be in a partnership and are content creators sharing insights about their audiences.
Interview with Justyna Torres
Perlu: Hello and welcome to the Perlu Podcast: Influencer Marketing Reimagined, a podcast where we chat
with influencer marketing professionals, social media influencers, bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters, you name it, about what has led to their success.
Justyna Torres is a senior manager of influencer marketing at 360i in New York City. Justyna has been in the influencer marketing space for more than four years and came into it from a PR background. She’s worked with a variety of global brands, from Macallan Scotch Whiskey to National Rental Car and P&G brands su
ch as Head and Shoulders and Herbal Essences – and one of my personal favorites DSW.
I’m your host, Alexis Trammell. If you enjoy today’s episode, we hope you sign up for Perlu to learn more about how you can grow your influencer marketing career.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Justyna.
Justyna Torres: Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Rethink Your Brand’s Influencer Marketing
Perlu: Tell us a little bit more about yourself and what got you into this influencer marketing space.
Justyna Torres: As you said, I originally entered this space in PR, so that’s really where my background was. I started at Le Forest, which is on the global grants team there, which is a PR-first agency.
But as I was doing a lot of these PR events and campaigns, I realized that a lot of these campaigns were integrating influencers, whether that was a thing at the time or not. I actually really liked working with influencers more.
So I kind of just naturally gravitated towards that. And as I was going on to different companies and building my career, I kept noticing that influencers were becoming a large part of these PR campaigns, just because they are self-starters and speakers in that sense. So I shifted my focus to influencer marketing just because I thought it was a growing field at the time, and it’s really interesting and gets my creativity flowing – things like that. So that’s kind of how I started going into the influencer marketing space.
Perlu: So you’re working at 360i now, a digital marketing agency, and I’m curious,
How is 360i’s influencer marketing approach different from other agencies?
Justyna Torres: We really take a holistic approach to any campaign. Not only are we thinking of influencers that we can work with, but we’re thinking about how we can blow up these campaigns to our other categories, which include paid media, PR, social media, everything.
Another thing we try to think about is, who is an influencer? Our principle on the onset is that anybody can be an influencer regardless of media. That includes press, traditional social influencers, pacemakers, celebrities, experts, top leaders.
Anybody can really be an influencer in the right circumstances. A thing that we really look at is knowing what our goals are, whether that’s creating content, creating credibility in a space or looking at specific channels that we want to engage on, looking at who is the right fit for these particular channels.
Perlu: Great. Yeah, makes a lot of sense. So you and I have spoken a little bit about the importance of being holistic in your influencer marketing by integrating this tactic with other marketing vehicles.
Could you tell us about a time when you saw significant success from this approach?
Justyna Torres: Yeah. So most recently, DSW reinvented New York Fashion Week norms by hosting the first-ever inclusive Runway Redone Show featuring everyday women. This was a one of a kind runway show that was attended by top press and influencers. It was hosted by model and activist Hunter McGrady, and it was in partnership with 360i and Create and Cultivate.
Essentially what it was, was an open casting call for women across the country, an opportunity to walk down the runway and show off DSW’s Fall 2019 collection. So this was super buzz-worthy because of Hunter. Everybody loves her right now, but we also use social influencers to get the word out about this open casting call for the models. And then we even had five influencers actually join the runway show with us and got to walk in the show. So that was a lot of fun.
It was broadcasted across social media. It was even live-streamed on DSW’s Instagram page. And then we have a variety of different paid social components going on right now, including shoppable ads, using the content that was captured at the runway show on their social channels. We even did 1,000 covers wrapped and NY Post issues that were distributed across New York. So this was a really integrated project across all of our teams here at 360i, and we saw a lot of success from it.
Perlu: That is so cool. Thanks, Justyna. I’d like to take a quick break to talk about Perlu, the platform that all influencer marketing professionals should be using to connect with influencers. It’s not a subscription based directory. It’s a professional network of active influencers ensuring that brands partner with only the best, and you can sign up and try the platform for free today. No commitments, nor obligations. Here’s Brent Scott, Perlu’s director of influencer marketing to tell you a little bit more.
Perlu: I’m a big fan of DSW. I’m wearing some DSW shoes right now. You and I spoke briefly about the Style Squad. Is that what you’re referring to right now?
Could you tell us a little bit more about DSW and the Style Squad?
Justyna Torres: Yeah, so actually the Style Squad is different. The Runway Redone was just a campaign on the side. The DSW Style Squad members are kind of our tried and true influencers that we work with on a six-month basis. So we’ve had a couple iterations of the Style Squad since it started.
First we had a New York Style Squad, which was a group of five influencers that were based in New York and had existing friend connections. So it was really fun because these girls all knew each other, they interact with each other. All the content came off really authentic and fun because of these existing connections.
And then we expanded this to a Texas squad. We found a similar group of friends in Texas that all work together, all shop together. So it wasn’t inauthentic to see like, “Oh, why is this girl showing up in this influencer’s feed?” Their followers all knew that they were friends and got along. So it worked really well for us.
In our most recent iteration, we took people from across the country and we actually looked at people that really enjoyed working for DSW, and a lot of them didn’t know each other. And we still saw these authentic connections being made. They were commenting on each other’s posts. They really felt a sense of being a part of the squad.
So we’ve seen a lot of success from creating these squad groups and having people know like, “Oh Brighton Keller. She is part of the DSW Style Squad.” And looking out for those posts that she is posting on DSW’s app.
Perlu: Oh so cool.
What do you attribute to the success of that campaign?
Is it that it’s a niche group? Is it that it’s location-based? Or what would you say has been contributing the most to that kind of engagement on social media?
Justyna Torres: Yeah, I think it’s really the audience seeing that there is this niche group of people that are all promoting DSW.
We’ve seen even on social media that people who want to get recognized by the DSW brand are even tagging #DSWstylesquad.
So it’s a thing that’s known now within like the shoe industry that we have this Style Squad and that it’s exclusive, really. So people are always asking us, “How do we become a part of the squad?”
People approach us all the time. I think putting it out there and defining it, calling it out on DSW channels. Every time that we get a new squad member, they’ll do a feature on their social channels. People knowing that they are part of this group really gave visibility to the work that we’re doing.
Perlu: Cool, cool. So it’s fostering a community of DSW fans and the Style Squad is this exclusive piece of that.
Justyna Torres: Yeah, I think so.
Can you tell us about a time you saw your work on a campaign have a wider impact than just on social media?
Justyna Torres: Yeah, of course. I used to work for different alcoholic beverage brands. And one instance that comes to mind is my work on Aperol. So if anybody doesn’t know what Aperol is, it’s liqueur that’s used in Aperol spritzes, which have become insanely popular. It’s originally from Italy. So the drink originated there and made its way over.
But at the time – I think this was maybe two years ago now – the drink wasn’t really popular here. So we created a squad of sorts. We had five influencers that were based in the New York area, and they did posts throughout the summer about Aperol and the Aperol spritz. We even took them to the Hamptons where we were activating there.
We had them attend trendy restaurants out there, order the Aperol spritz, get people talking about like, “Ooh, what’s that bright orange color drink out there?”
And it was crazy because after that, with our integrated PR efforts at the time, we got a New York Post feature deeming it the “The Summer of Spritz.”
After that it took off, and every summer you’re going to see somebody with an Aperol spritz in their hand. That was really cool to see the beginning stages of the popularity of the drink and then it being enhanced by using these influencers.
Perlu: So cool. Awesome. Aperol spritzes. Okay, you’ve worked with a lot of larger brands.
How would you suggest that a brand who is just now tapping into influencer marketing for the first time be strategic in approaching influencers?
Justyna Torres: I would just focus on what your goal is here, whether that’s producing content to use on your channels or building credibility around your brand name.
You really want to understand what your goal is and what you’re working towards to help give you a better sense of what kind of influencers you want to work with.
For example, if your goal is just to build up the content library of images that you can use across social, then you’re looking at a different kind of influencer versus somebody that would give your brand credibility.
So for example, if it’s just content-based, you are looking for more of those influencer photographers that can do different styles of photography versus maybe a lifestyle influencer who does lifestyle shots and talks about shopping or other aspects.
Get Influencers AMPED to Work With Your Brand!
You really want to understand what your goals are to help inform your entire outreach.
And then I would understand, second, who your brand is talking to or who you want to talk to – so making sure that the influencers you are reaching out to align with your messaging points and things like that. It just wouldn’t make sense to have a health influencer talk about cars or something like that if they don’t have experience in this space.
So you want to see who people are talking about in the space you’re in. Engage with those people who are really the thought leaders in these categories, and make sure that you have credibility in the space that you’re going into.
Perlu: Yeah, sure. That makes a lot of sense. So how would you suggest that they set those goals?
How should they know whether they want to go after an influencer to produce content for them, or if they just want to get in front of an influencer’s social media audience?
Justyna Torres: Yeah, I mean that’s really dependent on the actual brand’s goals, like what they’re trying to get out of this.
It really varies by brand. If they already have that established name within their group, maybe they do want to build up their content more. But maybe if they’re entering in this space for the first time, they do want to get their brand and their name out there. So maybe going more of that credibility route and using influencers who have that voice in the space already.
Perlu: Right, that makes sense. If you’re trying to get better awareness in the space, you’re a brand new brand, then it makes sense for you to just want more eyeballs on your brand and just to be aware of it.
But if you’re a well-established brand, then influencers are a great way to shake up your content and make things feel more organic and natural and just a little more refreshed than you posting content that you developed yourself. Is that what you’re saying?
Justyna Torres: Yeah, exactly. And what we’ve seen for a variety of our brands is that using influencer content tends to perform better on social channels too, just because it looks more like something that you would see scrolling through Instagram versus something in a studio on a flat lay that disrupts the feed.
So we found that when using influencers and repurposing those images, it does well for a brand social channel as well.
Perlu: What does your process typically look like when you’re trying to tap into a new audience for a client?
Justyna Torres: So we use an internal team at 360i that pulls audience data and things like that for us to take a look at and see what’s going on in this space.
Who is the target customer here? What are they interested in? What’s the age group look like? All these different insights really help develop this overall picture of who we are trying to reach.
That’s really helpful because then we can look at that and then find influencers that have a voice in this space that appealed to the target audience.
A second thing, aside from looking at who your audience is, I would just make sure that you have credibility in the space to be talking about a new topic like this. As I said before, you’re not going to get a fashion influencer to talk about a new tech gadget. You really want to find your way into moving across verticals if that’s what you’re doing.
So maybe it’s a fashion influencer and you have this new tech app gadget thing, but it also has an iPhone app. Your way in there could be the iPhone because you know that they always talk about using the newest apps and things like that. So find a connection point in the middle to make sure that … it doesn’t feel inauthentic and they get how you are entering the space as well.
Perlu: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
What kinds of influencers do you typically like to work with? What do you look for in an influencer partnership?
Justyna Torres: Yeah, I love this question. So we really look for partners that want to be partners with us. It’s very easy for influencer marketing partnerships to become very transactional. But some of our favorite partners to work with are those people that are truly content creators.
We actually continue working with a lot of the same people and building up those relationships for people that really do enjoy creating content.
I would say the way that we approach any influencer campaign is really a conversation on the onset. Being like, “Hey, here are our goals. Let us know if this aligns to what you’re doing or if you have any ideas to enhance this idea.”
Struggling to Find Authentic Influencers?
We love hearing from influencers what they think will be best for their audience because at the end of the day, they know their audience the best. So it’s great when we have influencers come to us with their ideas or their concepts and saying, “We know that this will work and this is how we are integrating your brand into our personal brand.”
We really enjoy our partners that come to us with those great ideas because those are things that, on the brand side, we’ll never be able to think of because there’s so many different influencers and so many different audiences.
When they have a really good understanding of their audience and what they’re looking for and are able to create that content, those are the best partners. And those are the campaigns that we see do really well.
Perlu: Sure, makes sense. They can be the gatekeepers to their audiences. They know what they want to hear. And they’re not going to promote a brand that does not align with their values that they know that their influencers also value.
Justyna Torres: Yeah, and when you really just have those conversations and really get to know the influencer or just on a person-to-person level too, you can tell the difference between those transactional, “Here, just giving you the messaging and go post this,” versus those that are written their own voice.
Then they are really loving what they’re doing and the content that they’re producing. We feel that that really comes off in any of the content that we’re producing. And you can see the results from that.
Perlu: Yeah, because it seems more authentic to their audiences, and if it seems authentic, then their audience is more likely to trust their opinions on these brands.
Justyna Torres: Yeah, exactly.
Perlu: So one last question.
Are there any Perlu members that you’ve worked with and would like to give a shout out to before we end today’s podcast?
Justyna Torres: Yes, so I saw that Mr. Sabir Peele of Men’s Style Pro was on Perlu so I want to give a shout out to him. We’re actually working with him on a holiday campaign for DSW. He created really great content for that. That’s actually going live this week, so we can’t wait to see it.
Perlu: Great. Great. Justyna, is there anything else that you want to make sure that you add to this interview before we wrap it up?
Justyna Torres: I think that’s good.
Perlu: Awesome. Thank you again. This was such a pleasure. I feel like I’m learning from you. This is so good.
Justyna Torres: Thank you so much. This was a lot of fun.
Perlu: And thank you to everyone listening. We hope you really enjoyed hearing from Justyna Torres with 360i today.
If you like our show and are interested in what it takes to succeed in influencer marketing, check out our blog at blog.perlu.com for more podcasts and blog posts.
And sign up for Perlu at perlu.com to meet, mingle, connect, collaborate and grow your career. Justyna is here ready to collaborate with you. We hope you join us for our next installation of the Perlu Podcast: Influencer Marketing Reimagined.